Monthly Archives: August 2015

Captain Midnight article gets sabotaged by Batman’s nemesis

captain midnightI was rummaging through some files-no, not computer files for you youngsters out there- but old fashioned files, ones you find in folders-no, not computer folders-but folders containing files in boxes, when I came across a magazine, the name of which will not be mentioned, and it brought back an angry memory.

I contributed an article to this magazine nearly a decade ago and it still infuriates me when I think about what happened. If you are a writer, or an artist, you will understand.

The article was about “Captain Midnight,” a 1950’s television show, one beloved by boys across America. I actually cried and cried when we went on vacation on a Saturday before the airing of the latest episode. How could we leave before the show aired? How can a father be so mean and ruthless? Why wasn’t mom on my side? How can I cry for over two hours on the drive that sent my father into . . . well never mind.

The point is that the article was a nostalgic view of the old show, it’s origin and history, with a lot of background information that was well researched. I submitted my article with the word count guidelines and waited for the issue. I had written one or two articles for them before and had not encountered any problems. But boy did I encounter one with “Captain Midnight.”

The first four paragraphs were fine, no problem. But with the exception of one sentence at the end of paragraph five, the rest of the article was not there. Gone, gone, gone. Any writer can understand my mouth-dropping, eye-popping, flip-flopping stomach; shock changing to disillusionment evolving to anger. Captain Midnight had been sabotaged. What evil enemy of the good captain could have done this?

And here is the kicker. And the reason I never wrote for this magazine again. The editor told me in an email  that he printed what he received from me in the emailed article I sent. But that could not be. In case you did not catch what I said earlier, I repeat, “with the exception of one sentence at the end of paragraph five, the rest of the article was not there.” That means somehow the first part of paragraph five was not there, but the closing sentence was intact. That does not happen, can not happen. Sorry Mr. Editor, but I am not that dumb, close I grant you, but even I don’t believe that reasoning.

I always print copies of my articles to see what the editor may have changed, make note of it, and see if that can improve my writing. I know that email can be troublesome at times, but what you send is what will be received and a paragraph does not disappear leaving one sentence intact.

As an adult I did not cry when “Captain Midnight” was sabotaged by a less than honorable editor. But I did tell Batman the Joker was alive and running a magazine and after giving Batman the location and address . . . well it is good to have Batman as a friend. RIP former editor.

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Is the children’s book Goodnight Moon cursed

“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown was published in 1947. It is considered a children’s classic today, but did not do well when published. About 6,000 copies were sold the first year, then continued going downhill. In 1952 the childless Brown decided to leave the royalties to certain books to the children of her next door neighbor. Nine year old Albert Clarke got 100% of the royalties for “Goodnight Moon.”

Four months later Brown died from a coronary embolism at age 42. The estate was not settled until 1957 and it was then the Clarke family first learned that Brown had given the royalties to certain books to the Clarke children.

By this time the sales of “Goodnight Moon” had grown and 13 year old Albert now had $17, 350. But it was stipulated in the will that he could not collect any monies until he turned 21. Before then he was arrested many times and kicked off his high school wrestling team for a fist fight. At age 21, as sales continued to grow and grow, he was given a check for $75,000. He gave $35, 000 to his family, bought $4,000 in clothes for himself and his brothers and bought a Chevy Impala for $3,000. He ignored the advice to invest in US savings bonds.

When he took the Impala off the lot he was broadsided. Not a good beginning. A year later he had a dented car and 14 pairs of alligator shoes.

But poor Albert, and poor is the correct word, ended up burning through millions of dollars, was accused of domestic violence, lost custody of his children, abused drugs, was arrested many times on various charges, including theft and grand larceny, was a vagrant, and as you can guess incurred a lot of debt. He was pretty much a vagabond, living all over the place, buying houses, then selling them for a loss. By his own admission he was not a good businessman. He also believed for reasons unknown, that Margaret Brown was his real mother.

By 2000, he had gone through $5 million and had $27,000 in cash.

As for his brothers, Austin got Royalties from Brown’s “Sailor Dog.” His royalty checks were pocket change. Same for brother Jimmy who committed suicide in 1995.

Whether Albert is alive or dead, he and his heirs will have royalty rights through 2043. Maybe his heirs will do better.

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Why you should be wary of technology and bees

Some years ago I had a job interview in another city and not knowing the location of the business, I checked both Map Quest and Yahoo Maps for directions. Both had the same directions so I followed them with flawless precision. I turned left on Case Road as instructed. It took me into a wilderness, one in which I could not find the next correct street to turn on. It was a sunny, warm day and I enjoyed the trees, but I figured I had done something wrong.

So I drove back to a safe place and started over again. I figured the directions must be correct because both had agreed to turn left on Case Road. I must have missed something. Again I ended up somewhere on the Lewis and Clark trail to nowhere. Third time is the charm right? Not for me. Okay something is wrong here. I am aware as a male driver I am stubborn, but three times tells me something is wrong.

I always leave early for destinations in case of road accidents, alien abduction, or getting lost. Time was running out however, so I called the business and explained the situation. The woman who was to interview told me NOT to turn on Case Road, but continue on the road I was on. Then the conversation on my cell phone broke up, so I had to call back in order to receive further directions. And then a third time, then a fourth time; driving by this time with the window rolled down, as the day was getting hotter and hotter and the air conditioner was not working. During this fourth call, a gigantic bumble bee buzzed into my car and decided to circle my head, no doubt looking for a soft place to insert its stinger.

The woman I was on the phone with, grasping my inattention, laughed when I told her I a was now battling a bee the size of a small dog. The bee finally left, I got the directions without further communication breakdown and found the business.

It would have been worth it had I gotten the job, but I did not. As we know there are no happy endings in life, but I did learn not to trust implicitly in Internet directions. I wondered how both could be wrong. Was once simply copying from the other? Technology is a wonderful thing, but it is not infallible, not without problems, so the lesson is do not fall in love with it. It will on occasion bite you.

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Money is NOT the root of all unhappiness; just ask me

Money is the root of all unhappiness. Who said that?

I think it was put forth by a consortium of well-heeled nouveau riche of long ago, who, when they got the big dough, decided  they did not want their castles stormed by the villagers, the same grubby villagers who stormed Frankenstein’s castle with torches in their hands and bloodlust on their  minds. These wealthy castle dwellers had to protect what they had, so they met at a secret location deep in the Carpathian mountains and decided to spread the word of their homily, one which they felt the villagers would fall for, that it was okay to be poor.

Money is the root of all unhappiness they said. It leads to terrible decisions, makes people lust after things they don’t need and would not know what to do if they had all those trinkets, baubles, and glittery things. Money ruins families, tears children from their parents, causes divorce, even hemorrhoids. Be happy with what you have they said. Love and happiness is everything. Money does not buy love (although it can be rented by the hour, but that to leads to unhappiness too-so they say).

The wealthy castle dwellers got the church (as in the church of the whole) to spread the word and centuries later we have bought into this. Yes the rich have the same problems we do; just their bills have more numbers than ours do. And who would want those headaches?

I contend that money does make people happy. The wealthy smile a lot when parking their Ferrari F12 berlinetta’s; smile again when ordering roasted villager, topped with creamy mushroom sauce, under glass, in the chicest of eateries; ones so chic they are never listed in any guidebooks. The new wealthy castle dwellers wear clothes that are always impeccably pressed, and they never get dirty. They always smile and look happy.

Money is a tool. It is used to give you a place to live, to put food on the table, to put clothes on your back-and the front also-and that is all that money is good for. And buying lots of books. It does not bring you unhappiness. It does make you happy. And the more you have, the more happier you are. Do you doubt me?

I am willing to prove how happy I can be with money, once I sell enough e-books to afford to be a castle dweller and buy a celebrity smile filled with white teeth that exists only in magazines. Feel free to buy an e-novel or two, tell your friends about my books. Once I get my castle I will invite all purchasers to my castle for a feast of roasted villagers under glass. Or maybe a brunch with tons of maple bars.

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Denial of Death through the eye of the artist

Academic Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his landmark non-fiction book “The Denial of Death.” Ironically he could not deny death as he died at age 49, two months before he won the Pulitzer. Becker was an anthropologist whose work influenced social psychology among other things. “Denial of Death” was also the book that Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) insisted Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) should read in the Oscar winner “Annie Hall.” Being a Woody Allen fan I had to buy the book.

I was thumbing through the book the other day, something I do with long ago read books, when I came across a passage about artists, and since writers are artists, I found something of great insight.

I quote from the book: “There is something in his life experience that makes him take in the world as a problem; as a result he has to make personal sense out of it. . . Existence becomes a problem that needs an ideal answer, but when you no longer accept the collective solution to the problem of existence, then you must fashion your own.”

As a writer and a card carrying INFJ (author) according to the Keirsey-Bates temperament sorter, I understand exactly what Becker is saying.  I have always tried to make sense of the world and existence. As a seeker (again an INFJ trait) I have explored religion, atheism, creationism, and the big bang theory (including the TV show) and everywhere I turned, everything I studied, I invariably ended up amused.

I do not see a true answer, so like the second part of the quote I have tried to fashion my own answer. Since I have been amused and bemused with observations on society, people, culture, religion, politics (the biggest joke) and everything in between, my two e-novels tend to show the looniness of what is going on. I have not done so with contempt, nor sarcasm, nor smugness, but a lovingly bemused look at life and people. I think it says something about myself that my favorite painting is Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” I do not know if the screamer in the painting is making an existential scream of horror and despair, but my scream would be an existential laughing scream of a bedlam loony.

My characters are not loony, however, except for one, but he was a true life loony of some kind. The actions of my characters don’t always make sense, though they don’t know it at the time. But they continue to work things out, often muddling through, sometimes getting answers, sometimes not. They, like myself, are working on fashioning answers.

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The recommended author bio for the 21st century

In days of yore, yore being before the Internet, prestigious hard copy author bios were, and still are, for those lucky enough to have staid old New York publishers, rather straight. The bio would say for example: John Doe graduated from Northwestern, and did graduate studies in Beowulf at Cleveland Institute of the Arts. He won the William Faulkner award for his short story “Genghis Khan Dated Jesse James,” and has written both fiction and non-fiction for Atlantic Monthly; Paris Review; Berlin Reich; Playboy, and Readers Digest. In lives in New England with his wife, two daughters and a poodle named Butch.

One never saw a bio that said, “the author is a former postal worker in Humptulips , Washington,” or “the author is a housewife from Kitchenfloor, Tennessee.”

But Indie writers are everywhere, anyone can write a novel-hell, I did. Now let me state that my old bio did mention I had a degree in English Literature from Western Washington University, wrote film reviews for ten years, and all that jazz. Except no poodle named Butch.

I keep reading from those in the know, seem to be in the know, or claim to be in the know, that in todays world the author bio needs to be more friendly and personal in order to relate to people on social media and social networking and all that poodle doodle.

So without further ado, my new author bio:

Since I was born the following has happened to me; my mother and I saw a UFO; my voice was recorded at the Washington State Performing Arts Center and used for a radio DJ in a play; I was a volunteer legislative aide for one year in the Washington State House of Representatives; I managed theatres; owned a bookstore; wrote film reviews for ten years for a small town newspaper; a brief memoir of mine was published in “Christmas Spirit” by St. Martins Press; I visited the homes of John Keats and Charles Dickens when I was in London (they weren’t home); I stayed in the same hotel in London-though I did not know it at the time-where Jimi Hendrix died; I nearly severed a large vein or artery (how do you tell) on the back of my hand with a broken dish I was washing at a woman’s apartment in Goteborg, Sweden; while house sitting at Ocean Shores, Washington, a butcher knife fell out of a cupboard nearly slicing my finger off; I may have met the Manson Family one month before the Tate-La Bianca murders; I was stranded in Esbjerg, Denmark, without money; I am descended from two Danish Squires; in 1969 I saw Juan Marichal pitch for the Giants in San Francisco and the next night saw Tom Seaver pitch for the Mets against the Dodgers in LA and both became Hall of Fame pitchers; I am a Strat-o-matic fanatic; I learned when living on North Cherokee in Hollywood, that across the street on the next block was one of the places where “The Black Dahlia” lived; I owe Rick Barry, NBA Hall of Famer, an apology; I heard Anthony Burgess, author of “Clockwork Orange” tell a lie-and I was reasonably disheartened; I could go on, but I have to stop sometime.

Now you know much about me, and yes, it is all true.

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Book sales or good reviews; which do you want

You can only have one. Would you rather have lots and lots of book sales, but mediocre reviews or would you forsake the sales for good reviews. Keep in mind this happens in movies all the time where an audience pleaser is panned by all critics and also by many members of the audience.  But you can only have one. Which do you choose?

I think it says much about the person by their choice. I would say if you choose sales you are interested in making money and damn the quality of your work. You are happy with the money that affords you a lavish lifestyle. You hang out with sluttish money-grabbing ladies of opportunity (my favorite type) who desire a new car, all the latest fashions, and high end drugs. The women are needy as is the entourage and all your time is taken up with these hangers on. Soon you forget what got you the money, you stop writing, the money is gone, and you live in a box near a dumpster. Women gone. Entourage gone. Is it worth it?

The other choice is that despite getting good reviews for your self published e-books you fail to land a consistent audience. Worse, there is no sluttish, money-grabbing ladies of opportunity, no entourage. Sacrifices have to be made if you want good reviews. But you find solace that there are strangers who connected with what you wrote, that they understood your story, liked it, and the good review was your applause. And who doesn’t like applause? You hold your head high, feel empowered by positive reviews, though few there are; still you know you can write and write well. Unless you get that insidious bad review that sends your ego into a tail spinning nose dive, the ground coming up fast and there is nothing to do but meet your fate. You are a failure after all.

But I digress.

If you are wondering what choice I would make and am probably thinking I would choose the good reviews, I regret to inform you that I am keeping my choice to myself. I have an affinity for the Lorelei woman singing her fateful song that lures the sailor to his doom. Bad girls are just fun, aren’t they. I think I could accept all that, knowing I would end up in a box by a dumpster. On the other hand-okay-I choose good reviews. You see I have good reviews, I love them, so I am happy. I don’t have to choose, but the women always look lovelier on the other side of the dream, don’t you think.

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